Dangers of off again on again divorce
Guest Author, Anne Kass, - a retired District Judge of Albuquerque, New Mexico
Children of divorce cases frequently pay a high price for their parents' inappropriate actions. One of the most damaging behaviors parents engage in is something we call "the ambivalent divorce". In these cases the parents go through multiple separations and reconciliations.
The children of these uncertain parents alternate between experiencing their worst nightmare (divorce) and their happiest dream (mom and dad staying together).
The severity of the damage caused by parental indecision seems to surprise some parents.
In one recent case the parents had been indecisive for more than six years. Their teenage son had lived with one parent and then the other during the separations. Sometimes the parents had lived in different states, so he had moved frequently. That had required him to change schools and friends as well as homes numerous times. His life had been one of chaos loss and disappointments.
At the age of 15 he was a lonely, sad young man.
One day he took a gun to school. He was suspended and charged with having committed a juvenile crime. The counselor, who spoke with him to help the judge decide what the proper consequence should be, provided a distressing report. He said the young man was so severely depressed, that he was a suicide risk. Indeed, when he took a gun to school, he was not being aggressive. He was being suicidal.
The major contributing factor to his suffering was his parents' unsettled relationship. His father had recently decided to marry someone other than his mother, which signaled that his nightmare would become his permanent reality. His family would never be restored. He felt helpless and hopeless. He was confused. He believed he was responsible. In addition he had no long-term friendships, partially because he had moved so often but also because he had become mistrustful of committed relationships.
Parents whose relationship with each other is not working need either to fix the problem or end their unwholesome marriage to one another. It is essential that they recognize what impact they are having on their children. Parents who can't make up their minds about their marriage must expect their children to be confused and distraught. They should also expect their children to go through life alone because experience has shown them how unsafe and painful it is to need and connect with other people
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